Work in Sports
BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- The Buffalo Bills had all the advantages of home, even against their closest geographical rivals.
Doug Flutie improved to 14-1 as a home starter and the home team in the series held for the 12th straight time in Buffalo's 24-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Flutie completed 11 of his first 12 passes and went on to throw three touchdown passes as he increased his record as a starter at Ralph Wilson Stadium to 8-1. The Bills have beaten Pittsburgh, which is roughly 160 miles away, seven straight times at home since September 3, 1978.
Flutie completed 21-of-32 passes for 261 yards without an interception, finding Eric Moulds six times for 122 yards. The pair helped the Bills to their fourth straight win after a season-opening defeat and their first 4-1 start since 1996.
"Today was my best day (this year)," Flutie said. "I just felt like it was coming off nice. I was seeing the field real well and I was being patient with my throws."
The Steelers got an improved effort from Kordell Stewart, who was 21-of-29 for 216 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. But they fell to 2-3 for the first time since 1990.
The Bills extended the lead to 24-14 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter when Flutie hit wide-open tight end Jay Riemersma with an eight-yard scoring pass. Jonathan Linton had a three-yard run on 4th-and-1 as the Bills converted after linebacker Sam Rogers returned an interception of Stewart 24 yards to the Pittsburgh 38.
"Beautiful call. That is the one trick-then play," Flutie said. "I faked a toss and rolled right while Jay gets lost in the mix. It is a play that I have seen run even up north."
"I was in a perfect position, he just threw the ball to me," Rogers said of Stewart. "It just so happened the No. 2 (receiver) went out. I played (Mark) Breuner the whole time, I didn't even think of No. 2 -- he could have been up the field scoring a touchdown, I wasn't even looking at him -- I knew they were gonna throw that route. When I saw him look over there, I just broke on the ball, ran to the ball."
Linton registered 45 yards on 15 rushes while Andre Reed had 68 on six catches. Reed passed Art Monk for fourth on the all-time list with 12,742 receiving yards. Monk had 12,721.
Linton played the fourth quarter and might be pushing Antowain Smith for the starting spot.
"It's a great confidence-builder," Linton said. "To me it's a great honor. It's exciting for me to have the game in my hands."
Pittsburgh made a final attempt to get back into it with 2:44 left in the game when Jerome Bettis ran a yard for his first touchdown since December 20 and his second in his last 14 games.
But the Bills were able to melt the clock with two first downs after the ensuing kickoff.
"At the end of the game, when you have to win the game, we won the game," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "I can't say enough about that, because you get in those situations, you need to hold the ball when you need to hold the ball and you need to stop them when you have to stop them."
The Steelers got a gift early in the game when Smith fumbled away the ball at the Buffalo 12. Three plays later, Stewart hit Hines Ward with a 12-yard scoring pass and a 7-0 lead.
Ward had 67 yards on six receptions and rookie Troy Edwards 50 on four.
But Flutie drove the Bills 69 yards in 14 plays on the ensuing possession, capping the nearly eight-minute march with a two-yard touchdown toss to fullback Sam Gash on 4th-and-2.
"Anytime you go for it on fourth down and you are in the game, you are excited, because you know it takes 11 people to makes the play successful and we were able to do that," Gash said.
Buffalo grabbed the lead for good 47 seconds into the second quarter when Flutie connected on a 49-yard TD strike to Moulds.
The only other play of the drive was an 11-yard pass between the pair.
"That was a play we had been working on since Wednesday," Moulds explained. "We knew that the safety likes to come down and cover the tight end, so that gives us the opportunity to make a big play. I just wanted to get up on the corner real quick, give him an out move and break it post and Doug made a great throw."
Steve Christie tacked on a 29-yard field goal with 4:31 left in the first half, completing a drive kept alive when Flutie scrambled for 21 yards on 3rd-and-20.
"We had a three-man rush on that one, he broke clean, no one could contain him," Steelers defensive end Orpheus Roye said.
"He made big plays and hurt our defense. He's a mobile quarterback. We had a nice game plan for him, we just didn't keep containment. He hurt us."
"Everyone keeps talking about the offense; we gave up too many plays defensively, we gave up too many big pass plays and we weren't very good on third down (defensively)," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "On third down, they did a good job of converting and he (Flutie) made some plays."
Pittsburgh got within 17-14 in the final minute of the first half when Stewart threw a 17-yard pass that went off the hand of cornerback Thomas Smith and into the arms of Edwards in the end zone. Stewart converted three third-down passes to extend the 71-yard march.
"I have faith in Kordell when nobody else does," Pittsburgh nose tackle Joel Steed said. "He's a great player, a great athlete.
You have just got to rally around him. The key is when he plays well, it makes our job easier. It's just one of those things where we've got to pull each other up."